California Literary Review

Movies

Head to Head: A Haunted House v. Scary Movie V

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April 22nd, 2013

Every year, similar seeming movies will be released shortly after one another. For the first installment of Head to Head, I will compare this year’s horror spoofs A Haunted House and Scary Movie V. There will be spoilers, but for these movies, I can’t imagine anyone caring.

Movie Review: Oblivion

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April 19th, 2013

Director Joseph Kosinski, who helmed the vapid and cartoonish TRON: Legacy, uses every frame of Oblivion as a canvas on which he can project the massive adventure he wants audiences to experience. Kosinski, who made a sizable impression on the industry with his commercial work, has a background as an architect and his eye for details and contrasting imagery is front and center in this film.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Untouchables, #28

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April 18th, 2013

In the midst of a dinner party in his honor, Capone (Robert De Niro) takes out a Louisville Slugger and delivers a tribute to baseball as the All-American sport. As his underlings smoke cigars and chuckle in agreement, Capone circles a huge round table—finally stopping behind one nodding toadie. He briefly speaks of betrayal and then applies a few Ruthian swings to the employee’s skull.

Movie Review: Upstream Color

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April 15th, 2013

The problem with writing this review of Upstream Color is that I’ve only seen it once. This isn’t to say that the movie will make complete sense upon subsequent viewings, but it definitely requires multiple watches (plus access to Wikipedia, fan theories, and frame-by-frame analysis) in order to begin to appreciate what writer-director-actor-composer-fundraiser-distributor Shane Carruth accomplished with his second feature about the “subjective experience of life,” relationships, and several other intangibles.

Movie Review: Trance

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April 13th, 2013

In its brief run time of an hour and 40 minutes, Trance includes a heist to steal a priceless piece of art, a love story, a revenge story, double crosses, a triple cross, amnesia, the power of the mind and a pretty shameless plug for a British carmaker.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Eastern Promises, #29

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April 12th, 2013

The diary of Tatiana (Tatiana Maslany), a 14-year-old, drug-addicted prostitute who dies while giving birth to a daughter in a London hospital, sets the film in motion. Her account of how and why she came to London—provided by periodic voice-overs as the diary is translated from Russian—offers a back story of the mob’s involvement in white slavery and English brothels.

Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

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April 5th, 2013

Despite all of these good elements, the movie ends up significantly less than the sum of its easily discernible parts. Linking these pieces is easy in a narrative sense, but it becomes almost too easy and too obvious thematically.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The French Connection, #30

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April 4th, 2013

New York City is more gritty than pretty in this period piece, which was shot before the Big Apple’s late-20th century revival. The skies are gray, vacant lots are strewn with debris and there’s a doomed look to the city—right down to the rusty Rheingold beer signs. It’s not attractive, but the urban tangle is a genuine representation of a time and place.

Early Review: Burma

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April 2nd, 2013

Puga has selected actors that neither underplay their roles nor try to outshine their co-stars. Abbott – who is best known from HBO’s Girls but gave an equally impressive performance in last year’s indie Hello, I Must Be Going – is especially good, playing Christian as a self-centered manchild who uses his father’s abandonment as a crutch for his own misdeeds.

Movie Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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March 28th, 2013

Unable to fathom who would actually enjoy a movie like that, I wondered how I was going to write a critical analysis of such a terrible piece of Hollywood junk. So, for my review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I have invited a special guest to help me discuss the movie and break down what worked and what did not. Please help me in welcoming my 12-year-old self, Matt.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Petrified Forest, #31

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March 28th, 2013

Watching The Petrified Forest you can see Bogey developing his craft. Riffing off of John Dillinger, he holds his arms at a curious angle, like he is about to reach for a gun. (For decades, Bogey impersonators would ape that posture.) Bogart studied films of Dillinger and tries here to recreate the famous bank robber’s battered facial expression and insolent demeanor.

Movie Review: Spring Breakers

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March 23rd, 2013

It is a painful stretch to suggest that most of the movie is each girl’s troubling fantasy of how spring break will be, dreamed up while sitting in their dorm with no money. However, the fact that Korine’s tale allows for such questions is one of the most fascinating things about it. The movie’s ambiguity, with each interpretation bearing its own horrifying implications, lends unexpected dramatic weight to the exploitative revelry that makes up most of it.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: City of God, #32

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March 21st, 2013

The frantic pace and relentless violence drive home the promotional tagline that so accurately described the film: “Fight and you’ll never survive. . . . Run and you’ll never escape.”

Movie Review: The Croods

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March 19th, 2013

An overprotective father, Grug prefers to keep his clan holed up inside a cave until they need food while Eep wants to explore the world outside, to her father’s dismay. After sneaking out one night, she encounters fire-maker/idea man Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and his pet Belt.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: American Gangster, #33

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March 14th, 2013

Based loosely on the life and times of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, American Gangster was an attempt to do for America’s black underworld what the Godfather films did for the American Mafia.

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